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High Intensity vs. Low Intensity Cardio: Which Gets Better Results?

Till now, Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio has been preached to be the perfect way to improve health and weight loss.

However, recently High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) gained great popularity. This form of cardio is famed to be a quick and fun alterative that burns more calories in less time, having the famous “after burn” effect on top of that.

So which cardio option gets better results: LISS or HIIT? Which burns more fat?

Today we’re taking a deep look at both, comparing them and finding out which one is better for you!

What is LISS?

Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS) is simply cardio done at a low intensity. Due to its low-intensity nature, LISS workouts can be typically performed for long periods of time.

LISS cardio should be easy enough that it allows you to hold a conversation as you work out. Throughout the duration of the workout, your intensity should not change, with about 40% Heart Rate Max (HRmax).

Great examples of LISS cardio include walking, exercising on an elliptical, Stairmaster, low-intensity bike ride, and many others.

What is HIIT?

High-Intensity Interval Training is a type of cardio that contains short bursts of intense work with periods of low-intensity or even rest in between.

Usually, a 3:1 or 4:1 rest-to-work ratio is used. For example, in a 3:1 method on the treadmill, you walk at a low-intensity for 45 seconds and then burst into an all-out-sprint for 15 seconds, and repeat until you’ve completed at least 8-10 intervals.

During the periods of work, try to hit a peak intensity of at least 80% HRmax. Then allow yourself to fully recover in between each interval, so you can give each push your best.

Examples of HIIT include: Sprints, indoor bike sprints, sled pushes, rope pulls, high-intensity rope jumping, and many others.

Which is More Time Efficient?

Everybody is short on time, so having an effective and fast cardio workout sounds like a great thing.

Taking this into account, HIIT workouts (shorter and more efficient that LISS) may present a compelling solution if you find the nature of them suitable for you.

HIIT Workout Duration

HIIT workouts range anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Some may range above 30 minutes for endurance athletes specifically training for performance. But, for the majority of us looking to just burn more calories, HIIT workouts that last 20-30 minutes, or even less, are more than sufficient.

LISS Workout Duration

On the other hand LISS workouts can range from 30-60 minutes. Keep in mind, since LISS is “steady state” in nature, your effort level should be consistent through the entire workout. To maintain your pace, you’ll need to lower effort and focus on consistency.

And unfortunately, less effort will burn less calories. This means you’ll have to work out longer periods of times during LISS than you would with HIIT.

Which Brings Better Results? LISS or HITT?

The available research indicates that HIIT may offer several advantages over steady state aerobic training. I will highlight a few below.

HIIT Promotes Better Cardiovascular Fitness

Recent studies showcase that cardiovascular fitness greatly depends on workout intensity. This means, that HIIT due to its high intensity may be superior to traditional steady state cardio training.

HIIT Improves Fitness Performance

Latest research also indicates that HIIT offers greater improvements in VO2max, blood pressure, cardiac contractility, insulin signals, and muscle contraction when compared with traditional low-intensity aerobic training.

HIIT is Better for Weight Loss

Looking at all factors, HIIT is a superior training form for those attempting to lose weight. While low-intensity steady cardio (so-called “fat burning zone”) results in an increased percentage of fat burned for calories during a workout. Total caloric expenditure and lipolysis (fat breakdown) are significantly greater during a HIIT session.

Is HIIT or LISS Better for you?

There are only two things you need to figure out, and you’ll know which form of cardio is better for you. The first being, how much time you are willing to dedicate for each cardio session. The second, how much effort you’re willing to put into your workouts.

HIIT is for you if…

If you’re limited on time and wish there were more than 24 hours in a day, then HIIT would probably be the more logical way to go. Just remember that you must be willing to get comfortable with the high intensity, to see the results you’re looking for. It’s also vital that a solid base of cardiovascular fitness is already established before adding HIIT into your routine.

LISS is for you if…

If time isn’t a problem, and you don’t want to feel uncomfortable, then low-intensity cardio is probably more suitable for you. You’ll still burn calories and lose weight, it’ll just take a bit longer.

Go for both if…

If you just can’t decide, why not try both? Have maybe 1 or 2 HIIT sessions, and LISS workouts the other days of the week. A blended routine can help you be engaged throughout your weekly workout regimen. Proper mind and body recovery will also be easier, allowing you to keep putting maximum effort towards your goal.


HIIT and LISS are two great forms of cardio exercise. Choose whichever is more appealing to you, taking the above considerations into account, and results won’t miss out.

And don’t wait too long, just make the decision and go for it!

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